Depositions are routinely taken in lawsuits, and are common in family law cases. A deposition is a part of the “discovery” process where the parties or a witness are asked questions, under oath, outside of Court, so that the attorney will know what they will say when in Court. You have heard the old maxim that an attorney should never ask a question that he doesn’t know the answer to, well the deposition is the mechanism where you can ask that question. A wide variety of questions may be asked in the depositions even those that likely would not be relevant in Court.
Depositions are usually at the attorney’s office. The attorneys, the parties and a Court reporter are typically the only persons in attendance. Depositions are transcribed and may be videotaped.
Questions about the witnesses education, work, finances and efforts with regards to the children are all fair game. The dirty details of fault are also fair game. Naming names and being specific are part of the process too. Depositions are a tool to gain information as well as pin witnesses or parties down on what their “story” is so that it does not “change” later.
I had an instance where I took the father’s deposition in a custody modification case. Both parties had remarried. Step-parents always have a bull’s eye on their backs in custody modification cases. I made sure and asked the father several times and different ways if he had any issues with step-dad. The answer was “No.” Well, it took several months to get to trial. At trial the father tried to change his tune. He attempted to say he had serious issues with step-dad and had for as long as he had been in the picture. I asked the father if recalled his deposition. He stuttered. I showed him the specific page and questions asked. He said he must have forgotten about the serious issues at the time of the deposition. Right. He backed off on his assertions and the deposition “saved” the day.
Objections are rare in family law depositions, or at least less common than in trial. They are typically limited to the “form of the question,” being made to preserve the right to object in the future, but the deponent usually still answers the question. Questions regarding crimes, however, can be objected to and those are usually not answered – with the deponent pleading the 5th. The 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives all persons the right to not incriminate themselves. How does this come into play in family law? Adultery is a crime in Mississippi (blogged previously).
The bottom line in depositions is, while they are nerve wracking for the deponent, ultimately you are just answering questions and your job is to tell the truth and rely on your attorney.
Halloween gets no respect from divorce attorneys. No, Halloween is not the reincarnated Rodney Dangerfield. It’s just that in the divorce world Halloween is not a “real” holiday. It is not recognized either nationally or by the state. You do not get to miss school or skip work. The banks and post office are still open, unlike a “real” holiday. However, Halloween is nonetheless important!
I oftentimes put provisions for visitation on Halloween in my agreements. It is usually met with an awkward response by the other attorney saying,”you know that’s not a real holiday, right?” However, Halloween is a real holiday to your kids. Dressing up, trick or treating, hay rides, wagon rides, pumpkin carving and eating candy – What is not to love about Halloween?!?
Admittedly, Halloween does have a relatively short shelf life. From around the age of 3 or 4 to about 13 is as long as it lasts and thereafter becomes a night of mischief. But for those ten years or so – if you solely rely on the weekend rotation to get “your” Halloween, you may only get two. Halloween is always a moving target with regards to what day of the week it falls upon. Halloween needs to be addressed if you have young children.
First of all, there is no such thing as “Legal Separation” in Mississippi. The closest equivalent is a Temporary Order. This Order can either be the result of a temporary hearing or due to an agreement of the parties reduced to writing and approved by the Court. A temporary hearing and resulting Order, or Agreed Order, are usually done when a fault based divorce is on file with the Court.
A Temporary Order deals with short-term financial and custody/visitation issues, pending a final hearing. This is intended to be a “band-aid” on the situation and to maintain the status quo while trial preparations are happening.
A “Legal Separation,” while not recognized in MS law, is typically a different animal than a Temp. Order. Parties can separate in Mississippi, though not “officially”.
The thought behind the a Separation is to allow a cooling off period or a trial-run at no longer living as husband and wife and seeing how that works.
The problem with attempting it in MS is that it requires a great deal of trust between the parties as there is no Order, or teeth, if one party reneges on their agreement with regards to finances or custody. And typically there is not a great deal of trust between separating parties. However, a separation is a viable option in the tool belt of bringing calm to highly emotional domestic situations and can even lead to reconciliation in some circumstances.
What needs to be considered for separating, be it agreed or Court ordered?
The Children. What is the custody and visitation schedule? A Court would use the Albright factors to make a determination. If by agreement, the parties have a lot of leeway in what the arrangement is.
Financial Support. How much child support? How much spousal support? The Court requires each party to complete a financial statement and exchange it with the other party. Support awards are based on adjusted gross income and reasonable needs of the parties.
The House. Who stays in the home? Typically it’s the spouse that has the children, but regardless of who gets the house on a temporary basis, it does not mean that is how it will be at a final hearing.
The Bills. Who pays what? The house, utilities, school, cars, credit cards, etc… This is always a bone of contention.
Conduct During Separation. In Mississippi you are married until you are divorced. Even if you and your spouse have an “agreement” your spouse could still get grounds for divorce against you during a separation.
How Long is the Separation? When do you decide to try something else? This will be based on your specific facts and circumstances.
Matthew Thompson is a Litigation Attorney in Mississippi and can help you separate on temporary and permanent basis.